In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), translates to “in-glass” fertilisation and is a process where an egg is combined with sperm outside of the body. The process involves monitoring and stimulation the female’s ovulatory process, removing eggs from their ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid within a laboratory.
Once you have been referred to a clinic and IVF has been decided as the right treatment for you, your IVF course will begin by injecting daily doses of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) for 9-14 days. The dose of FSH is slightly higher than what you would produce naturally, in hopes to stimulate the growth of multiple follicles and the eggs that live inside of them. Your ovaries are monitored throughout, and once the number and size of follicles are adequate you will be issued another injection, which acts as a trigger to mature the eggs and prepare it for extraction.
36 hours after you have administered your trigger injection, you will return to the clinic to undergo a minor egg retrieval procedure, whilst being lightly sedated. This process involves passing a probe with a fine needle attached, through the vaginal canal and into each follicle in the ovary, guided by an ultrasound. The fluid in the follicles is then extracted and examined in hopes to find mature eggs. Depending on the number of developed follicles, this procedure takes around 20-30 minutes.
On the same day of your egg retrieval, your partner will produce their sperm, or your donor’s sperm will be reclaimed from storage. The preferred method of collection is masturbation within the clinic, to avoid contamination. The sperm are then put through a high-speed wash and spin cycle in order to separate the healthy sperm from the seminal plasma, which may contain bacteria and cause damage to the eggs.
Around 4 hours after the eggs have been collected (or thawed if they were frozen) they are mixed with your partner or donor’s sperm in the laboratory and placed in an incubator overnight. After around 16-20 hours, they are examined for signs of fertilisation. Usually, 60-70% of eggs will fertilise if the sperm sample seems normal. If the sperm quality is lower than normal, your specialist may suggest intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where each egg is injected individually with a single sperm to optimise chances of fertilisation.
The fertilised eggs (now called embryos) continue to grow in the lab for up to 6 days before the best 1 or 2 are chosen.
2-4 days after fertilisation, the chosen embryos are then transferred into the uterus using a thin tube called a “catheter” that’s passed into the vagina. This procedure is simpler than the egg collection and only takes a few minutes, so there is no need for sedation. Generally, only one embryo is transferred, however, in some exceptional cases, 2 are transferred. Once transferred, some of the remaining embryos may ve suitable for freezing, and used for future rounds of IVF if the first is unsuccessful.
Once the embryos have been transferred into your uterus, you enter the luteal phase, which is the 2-week period between the transfer and when you complete a pregnancy test. During this time, it is important to maintain good health and wellbeing, however, it is understandable that this time can cause certain levels of anxiety around not knowing if the treatment has been successful. Your clinic will likely provide you with help from fertility counsellors to support you throughout your IVF treatment. Once the 14 days are complete, you will take either a urine or blood test to determine if you are pregnant and whether the treatment has been successful or not.
What are the costs?
The cost of IVF varies considerably but costs £5000 on average. There may also be additional costs involved to store your embryos.
Does it work?
The success rates of IVF generally depends on your age (female) when undergoing the treatment.
35 years and under - 29%
35-37 years old - 23%
38-39 years old - 15%
40-42 years old - 9%
43-44 years old - 3%
44 and over - 2%
Is IVF for me?
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It can take 2 cycles for your hormones to regulate after coming off most types of hormonal contraception, so we'd recommend waiting until your third period to test for the most accurate results.
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